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As part of the ongoing Android 11 beta release festivities, Google just published a new video for developers detailing how the company plans to change how you sign into apps and services. That might sound boring, but the changes described are huge. Google is rolling out an entirely new system called Block Store, and if developers actually use it, signing back in with your apps on a new phone will be as easy as restoring from a backup during the setup process.
The whole video is a pretty short watch, and it also covers a new “One Tap” cross-platform sign-in system, which should make it easier to log into services if you aren’t sure how you registered an account (if you even did), but the most important bit is here at the end:
Block Store hopes to fix one of Android’s most infrequently frustrating issues: Setting up a new device. When you switch phones or buy an Android TV, signing into all your services is kind of a pain. Not everyone trusts a password manager, and if you’re wisely using different credentials for each service, it can take a while to get things set up when you switch to a new phone. Android’s backup and restore service doesn’t include account credentials, either, and while some services support Smart Lock for easy account-wide sign in, basically nothing but Netflix uses it. In short, setting up an Android phone kind of sucks. But Block Store aims to fix all that — if developers will use it.
Apps that build in support for the new Block Store API will use a token-based system to store account credentials on your phone, and those tokens can be backed up (with end-to-end encryption) as part of your Google account. In short, apps and services that support Block Store will let you sign in once, and store that info securely in a way that all your devices can easily pull down when restoring from a backup, without you even having to tap “yes” to a sign-in prompt. Developers can toss whatever they need to inside that token, so it can be made to work with any app or service — so long as developers care enough to implement it. That ability to store extra details should mean that Block Store can operate very much like Apple’s Keychain Services.
This is low-key, probably one of the most impactful changes Google could make to Android as a platform, and it should make moving between phones a whole lot easier. However, like prior solutions, it sounds like this depends on app developers to actually support it. But if they do, Android’s backup and restore system may finally start to compete with Apple’s, which is magic in comparison.